Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Months before the 2012 presidential election, based on a change in state law, Ohio sought to undo a federal consent decree (Decree) that required Ohio to count provisional ballots cast by voters who appeared in the correct polling location but lacked certain identification and ballots cast in the right polling place but wrong precinct due to poll-worker error. In the NEOCH decision, the Decree was upheld and extended for one presidential cycle; the SEIU plaintiffs obtained injunctive relief requiring Ohio to count the votes. The plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 for their 2012 work defending the Decree, their 2013 work obtaining an extension of the Decree, and the work performed to obtain a 2012 preliminary injunction and a 2013 permanent injunction. Using the lodestar method, the court awarded fees in both cases, limiting the fees for pursuing fees to 3% of the main case, citing the Sixth Circuit’s Coulter rule (capping fees for fees). The court awarded $2 million in fees to 25 attorneys for over 6,000 hours in the two cases. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, as reasonable, the hours and rates, except rates awarded to attorneys from California, and abrogated the Coulter 3% cap on fees for fees as inconsistent with intervening Supreme Court authority. View "NE Ohio Coal. v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Minor suffers from migraine headaches, injuries from a serious car accident, fibromyalgia, and depression. Minor previously appealed the Social Security Commissioner’s decision to deny her disability claims; in 2013, the Sixth Circuit remanded with instructions to award benefits. The district court, calculating attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412, substantially reduced Minor’s requested hourly rate and number of hours. While fees awarded under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 406(b) are deducted from a claimant’s award of past-due Social Security benefits, the government must pay fees awarded under the EAJA out of government funds, so the issue was, essentially, whether the government had to reimburse Minor for some or all of the attorney fees to be deducted from her benefit award. The Sixth Circuit vacated, stating that the district court provided little explanation for drastically reducing the requested EAJA fee award. View "Minor v. Comm'r of Social Sec." on Justia Law

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Binno, a legally blind individual, unsuccessfully applied for admission to law schools. He then filed suit against the American Bar Association (ABA), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming that his lack of success was due to a discriminatory admissions test “mandated” by the ABA. Thar examination, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is used by nearly all U.S. law schools. Binno claimed that the LSAT's questions have a discriminatory effect on the blind and visually impaired because a quarter of those questions “require spatial reasoning and visual diagramming for successful completion.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the complaint, concluding that Binno does not have standing to sue the ABA because his injury was not caused by the ABA and because it is unlikely that his injury would be redressed by a favorable decision against the ABA. The LSAT is written, administered, and scored by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which is not part of the ABA. The LSAC provides ADA accommodations (42 U.S.C. 12189) for persons with disabilities who wish to take the LSAT. The law schools to which he applied, not the ABA, determine what weight, if any, to give Binno’s LSAT score. View "Binno v. Am. Bar Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the district court adopted a consent order to resolve Dispatch's suit for an accounting of the gold from the S.S. Central America shipwreck. The order required defendants to produce financial documents regarding the period starting January 1, 2000. The court later issued a contempt order, citing defendants’ failure to produce an inventory of the gold recovered and sold. Defendants then produce an inventory of gold that they sold to California Gold Group from February 15 to September 1, 2000. They did not produce any prior inventories, which would have provided a complete accounting of treasure recovered from the ship. At a 2007 contempt hearing, the parties argued about whether the defendants possessed any earlier inventories. The court issued another contempt order in 2009. Defendants continued to assert that they had no such inventories. In 2013, Dispatch obtained the appointment of a receiver that it had first sought in 2008 to take control of and wind down the defendants. The receiver recovered found numerous inventories created before the California Gold sale, in a duplex owned by defendants' attorney and leased to defendants. The court concluded that defendants’ attorney engaged in bad-faith conduct, rejected Dispatch’s request for $1,717,388 (its total litigation expenses) and limited sanctions to the cost of pursuing the motion for sanctions, plus the expenses to uncover the fraud and locate the inventories. Dispatch submitted bills for $249,359.85. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a reduced award of $224,580. View "Williamson v. Recovery Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law

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The Hargers were Jones’ neighbors. Police reports indicate that there were issues between the neighbors for several years. Grad worked for CarMeds, ostensibly owned by Jones’ mother and run by Jones, occasionally visiting Jones’ home. Grad claimed to have been assaulted after such a meeting. At the police station, Grad identified Harger from a photo line-up. Ultimately, charges were dropped. The Hargers sued Grad and Jones, asserting conspiracy to have Harger falsely arrested. Meanwhile, Jones filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Hoover, the Hargers’ attorney, moved to modify the automatic stay and filed an adversary complaint, alleging that Jones's debt was non-dischargeable and seeking denial of discharge based on the assertion that Jones lied about the ownership of CarMeds. The bankruptcy court later dismissed the adversary proceeding on the Hargers’ motion, and set a hearing sua sponte, directing the Hargers and Hoover to show that they had reasonable grounds for filing. The court found that Hoover violated Rule 9011 by filing without specific evidence and made intentional misrepresentations in his filings; directed him to pay $26,000 in attorneys’ fees; revoked Hoover’s electronic bankruptcy filing authority; and referred the matter for possible prosecution. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Panel reversed, holding that the bankruptcy court relied on clearly erroneous factual findings ;erred as a matter of law in awarding fees on a sua sponte basis; and abused its discretion in imposing any sanctions. View "In re: Jones" on Justia Law